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Three Keys to Assertive Behavior

Assertive behavior is the positive and controlled expression of one’s will to get legitimate needs met. Assertiveness is healthy and leads to self-respect and earns the respect of others.

Assertive behavior is the healthy replacement for anger. Being assertive allows you to get what you need without injuring others!

assertive behavior, prevent divorce

On the other hand, behaving aggressively communicates to others, "What I want is more important than what you want." Feeling this, recipients of aggression resist and counter attack — often with anger. Aggressive people live a life of conflict, arguments, stress, being resented, or even hated by others.

Being passive is not much better. Living a lifestyle devoid of the word "no," is like driving a car without brakes. Saying "no" sets appropriate limits and is a healthy way to live. Without appropriate "no's" -- one's life is out of control and full of stress, anger, and resentment. Saying, no at the right time, for the right reason, is healthy, proper, and good.

Assertive behavior is the perfect balance between aggressive behavior and passive behavior.

Assertive behavior leads to peace, respect, and cooperation. Behaving assertively means to advocate for yourself in a respectful, but determined way, acknowledging the feelings and rights of others.

Assertive behavior is typically expressed with the use of "I messages."

For example:

  • "I need more time to complete this project"
  • "I would appreciate it if you could come with me"
  • "I am really not in the mood to go."
  • "No, I cannot do it."
  • "I am sorry; I already explained the consequences for ignoring my wishes and now you will need to live with them."

Contrary to what a person who is accustomed to non-assertive behavior imagines; assertive behavior evokes respect in others, whereas the other approaches do not.

When you behave assertively, others are confident that you will, "say what you mean and that you mean what you say." Clear communication like this is a pleasure for all and builds trust and cooperation.

People are more comfortable with those who are upfront with their thoughts and feelings. In fact, "head-games" is a derogatory word that refers to people who communicate non-assertively.

If you want others to feel comfortable around you, it is essential that you develop an assertive style of behavior. This includes how you think, speak, and conduct yourself.

An additional benefit to behaving assertively is that you will reduce your stress levels. Passive individuals often feel underpowered and overwhelmed. Aggressive individuals often encounter resistance and counter-attacks. All of this is extremely stressful. In contrast, an assertive individual takes a calm and determined approach to getting what he or she needs. Assertive behavior is the least stressful path.

True story (details changed to protect confidentiality): "Yes" means, "yes"

Barbara appreciates when her husband Mark says "no" when he can’t or doesn’t want to do something. She then knows that when he says "yes," he means it and will then actually follow through.

Mark’s assertive behavior toward Barbara is an act of respect and honesty. If Barbara does not agree with Mark’s position about something, she knows she can in turn, respectfully disagree with him. Then, together they can resolve the issue, arriving at a mutually agreed upon plan of action.

The three keys of assertive behavior

A three-leg chair is the minimum requirement for stability. You can sit on a three-leg chair without worrying about falling, but not a two-legged chair. A three-leg chair is strong and stable. So too, assertive behavior can be characterized as having three legs.

The following are the three basic components of assertive behavior:

  1. Know what you want. You need to be clear within yourself as to what it is you want.

  2. Say what you want. Communicate clearly to others your intentions, needs, and desires.

  3. Get what you want. Advocate in an assertive way--respectful, determined and controlled--to increase the likelihood of attaining your reasonable and legitimate goals.

Want some assertiveness training? Take some lessons. Learn more: